Stepping Up to the Plate (Poem)

(I wrote another piece for Black History Month in my church’s newsletter—you can follow us here: Safe Haven Newsletter. I hope it touches all those who read it and possibly inspire each of us to step up to the plate.)

STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE

I am not an activist
I notice social injustices
But
I did not ask for this
I didn’t ask to be the poster child
For civil rights
And equality
Yet
I feel as though it has been given
–to me
Automatically
Through birth
Like some sort of
Birthmark
Call it a birthright

But I keep thinking to myself
I didn’t ask for this
My attitude of dissonance
Is reflected in my actions
And my lifestyle
It’s all in the way I live
That’s why I keep my distance
I speak up for my people
I shout it loud
Say it proud
All over social media
Put me in the public eye
And I’m more hush than a
Whisper
I whisper as I whimper
About how I thought it all ended
With King’s speech about a dream
When they removed the colored
—only fountains,
Restrooms and schools
I can walk into
Unsegregated places
Isn’t that enough?
I find myself groaning
Then coming back to the issues
—at hand
Wondering
Who said I had to join the march?
We’ve already marched enough
Have we not?
Who says I have to get on the
Front lines?
What’s wrong
With fighting on the sidelines?

I stare down at my pen and paper

They tell me
Some of my own people
They tell me
That the arts are futile
They’re useless
Strictly entertainment
Therefore I haven’t done anything
Of significance

I used to think
Of my ink
As my picket sign
Spoken word
As my bullhorn
But now
I ponder
If all I am really doing
Is finding another way
To quiver behind my scribbles
I scribble, dibble and dab
Ooo-watch me make ’em mad
Behind stanzas
But I am still just a prisoner
Of my own fear to stand up
Among the many?

I recognize
I am
One of many and I represent
The living and the dead
The hopeful and the hopeless
Those
Who fight for change
And those who have become
Apathetic
I used to be apathetic to those names
Then the statistic became a person
That number had a face attached to it

Now I’m left here
As tears stain my face
Saying over
And over to myself
The same thing
My now deceased friend
Probably felt

I didn’t ask for this
I’m not a revolutionary
Not by any stretch of the imagination
But
Neither were any of my ancestors
Each of them
Were ordinary people
Nothing extraordinary
About them
Except the things that they did
To combat unjust practices

I see it
I see the light
It’s all so clear now
None of us asked for this
But it is what it is
The war was never over
Just because emancipation
Brought about a cease fire
Doesn’t mean a new strategy
Hasn’t been in the works

It hurts
But it hurts even more
To stand back
Do nothing
And pretend
As though everything is absolutely
Perfect
The way it is

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